Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif left for London on Wednesday to see his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz.
“Mian Sahib is leaving the country for London on Wednesday (today) to see Begum Kulsoom who is receiving treatment for throat cancer [lymphoma],” Senator Pervaiz Rashid, a close aide to Sharif, told Dawn on Tuesday.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif saw the former premier off at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport. Sharif departed via an Emirates flight, which will have a transit stay of a few hours in Dubai before leaving for London.
Rashid dismissed rumours that Sharif might not return to the country soon, considering the current political situation and the cases he is involved in with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“Why would Mr Sharif choose to stay away from the country where he is loved the most by the people? The circumstances today are not the way they were in 2007, when dictator Musharraf was ruling here. Even at that time, Mr Sharif had wanted to return to the country but he was not allowed,” said Rashid, adding that the former premier would stay in London for at least 10 days.
“However, he may extend his stay for more days depending on Begum Kulsoom’s reports,” he said.
Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hasan — and daughter Asma are already attending to Kulsoom Nawaz in London. However, Maryam Nawaz, who is busy running the campaign for her mother in the NA-120 by-polls scheduled for Sept 17, has cancelled plans to visit her mother. “I am running the election campaign of my mother therefore I am not going to London,” she said.
However, the opposing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf does not believe that Sharif is likely to return to Pakistan to face the NAB cases. These include: cases related to the Avenfield Properties (London), the Azizia Steel Mills, the Hill Metal Company, the Flagship Investments, the Hartstone Properties, Que Holdings, the Quint Eaton Place 2, Quint Saloane, Quaint, Flagship Securities, Quint Gloucester Place, Quint Paddington, Flagship Developments, Alanna Services (BVI), Lankin SA (BVI), Chadron, Ansbacher, Coomber and Capital FZE.
“There are chances that Sharif may not return to the country to face NAB corruption references in which he cannot evade punishment,” PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn. He said Sharif should not have been allowed to leave the country without joining the NAB investigation. “He is being given special treatment,” he alleged.
The Sharif family said it would join the NAB investigations after a decision on their review petitions against the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. NAB had earlier announced that it would file four references against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar soon after Eidul Azha.
With additional reporting by Abbas Haider in Lahore.